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5 times you definitely need an interactive prototype and not a wireframe

5 times you definitely need an interactive prototype and not a wireframe


While static wireframes definitely have their place in a website design and development, sometimes a design team needs to move up to the next level – a high fidelity prototype.

Wireframes are a great way to define how your website or mobile app is going to look after development. Wireframes can help you plot navigation flow, validate information architecture, test-drive content and cater to user needs. Here at Justinmind we love wireframes!

But no matter how great wireframes are, there are some things a web or mobile app wireframe just can’t do. Like mobile gestures. Or conditional logic. Or bringing a user interface to life with animation. That’s what high fidelity prototypes are for.

Wireframes and prototypes – what’s the difference?

Before laying out our 5 examples of situations that definitely call for a high fidelity prototype, let’s check out the difference between prototypes and wireframes.

  • wireframes are low-fidelity, basic layout and structural guidelines of your web or mobile software
  • prototypes are an advanced wireframe with more visual detail and interaction

So a wireframe is the like the skeleton of your final product and the interactive prototype is the spark of life. Web and mobile app wireframes are great for early-stage user testing and for internal teamwork, but when presenting design ideas to clients, investors or during UX testing, only a high-fidelity prototype will do.

With wireframes, you “dedicate time solely to answering crucial layout, structure, and organization questions before the team iterates on visual details.” Creative Bloq

Still not sure about the difference between wireframes and prototypes?

5 times you definitely need an interactive prototype

Back in the ’90s, basic HTML websites didn’t allow for much more than visual presentation of text and static images with links. And mobile devices weren’t even a thing back then.  Nowadays, the websites we browse and the mobile apps we use are almost unrecognizable: they’re interactive, responsive to user behavior, personalized, customized and even capable of learning a user’s preferences and acting upon them.

So designers need new tools to meet these new development needs. Prototyping tools like Justinmind. Let’s check out 5 situations in which only an interactive prototype will do.

Test prototypes with real users on real devices

Thanks to the rise of mobile devices, it’s no longer enough to mockup a static, unresponsive visualization of a final product. What matters now is functionality and feel, whether you’re building a responsive website, a web app or a mobile app. User testing is the only way to find out if the product’s feel and functionality are working for the user.

Carrying out usability testing before coding saves time and reworks in the long run. Advanced prototyping tools are now integrated with many usability testing tools and user research platforms, allowing you to easily work testing into your design process.

Find out how to carry out usability tests on high fidelity prototypes

Bring a web or mobile prototype to life

High fidelity prototypes are in a different league to the click-through mockups of yesteryear. With advanced UI features and elements in a smart prototyping tool, you can add video, html, flash as well as an extensive range of animations, effects, transitions and mobile gestures. If you’re prototyping with Justinmind you can use our pre-made UI kits to speed up the process of bringing your static designs to life.

With an interactive prototype that acts just like the final product, users and clients have a realistic idea of what to expect. The more realistic a prototype, the more accurate the feedback, the better the final validated product.

Design with real data

Data-driven applications are on the rise; in fact, VentureBeat went so far as to christen 2017 as “the year of data”. But visualizing data is no cake-walk for designers, particularly when trying to translate enormous data sets into good user experiences.

Data-driven prototyping can help solve these sticky situations. With a prototyping tool like Justinmind you can import real data into your prototypes and have users interact with that data is if they were using a coded, fully functional application.

By visualizing data in an interactive prototype, teams can test-drive their product’s UX and demonstrate to stakeholders that functionality is personalized and perfect.

Find out more about data-driven prototyping

Sell your app or site to clients

Selling a product to a potential investors can be tough, particularly if that product is still in the early design stages. Clients and designers often want very different things from a meeting, and newbie designers often make avoidable mistakes when pitching a still-in-production product.

For investors who lack tech-savvy, it’s difficult to get excited about a static wireframe, and paper prototype walk-throughs will be confusing and disconnected. Coming into a client or investor meeting armed with an interactive prototype makes for a more successful encounter. You will be able to show off the user interface in all its interactive glory, and place the product within its market context.

Boost team collaboration and design workflow efficiency

Finally, if your design team is having problems communicating then a prototyping tool can help. Try to pick a prototyping tool that has strong teamwork features: shared prototypes stored online mean teams can work together simultaneously on the same web or mobile app prototype; teams can share assets and manage their customized UI libraries to save time; and stakeholders can comment on prototypes and give instant feedback. If your team is collaborating in Justinmind, everything is saved in the version history, so you always know where you are.

It’s important to discuss and decide on the technical functions before you start coding, because most of software bugs come from changing plans during the coding stage. It also helps to reduce production time, as the rewriting normally takes longer than the actual coding!

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Xavier Renom

About the Author

How to define, validate and review applications before starting to code are his thing. He is interested in everything related to web, mobile and desktop apps and how to prototype and simulate them before development starts. After hours he’s flexing his math muscles.

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